On Saturday, a re-dedication ceremony was held at Washington High School (WHS) for historic statues that have undergone a journey to get back to the Blue Lion family.
As previously reported, the WHS Class of 1958 has spearheaded the effort to refurbish, and in some cases purchase back the historic statues, gifts originally from classes of the early 1920s, and rededicate them to come alive in the school hallways once again.
The ceremony involved sharing information about the statues, the efforts to get them back, and included a chance to see the three statues being recognized — King Arthur, Thalia, and the famous Winged Victory.
Larry Milstead, a member of the WHS Class of 1958, opened the ceremony by discussing their class and how the project of statue restoration came into existence.
Essentially, their class has been involved in raising funds for scholarships and other school-related ventures. They hold meetings every five years and class of 1958 member John Rhoads would say they needed a legacy.
“In 2018 at our 60th class reunion, John invited Trevor Patton (Washington Court House City Schools director of marketing and communications) to discuss the HAP Fund,” said Milstead.
The HAP Fund stands for “Historic Assets Preservation Fund.”
Shortly after that meeting, members of the class and retirees of Washington Court House City Schools (WCHCS) came together to discuss options and about the statues. In March of 2019, letters were sent out to members of their class, who managed to raise approximately $10,000.
“That’s pretty good for 50 people,” said Milstead. “We started going to other class reunions trying to sell our plan.”
Other people started to get involved and donate funds as well to help with bringing the history back to the Blue Lions.
How did the statues end up in this situation to begin with?
According to retired WCHCS guidance counselor Pam Feick, “there was a teacher at Washington High School. Her name was Paidee Van Winkle Coffman. She came to Washington Court House in 1894. She taught over 50 years, and she was there at least 47 of those years (at the high school).”
Coffman had received a lot of education and loved traveling.
“I think on some of her travels over in Europe, she saw many of these types of statues and appreciated them, and the artwork, and the paintings and things. She was an English and a history teacher. And there are several things in old Sunbursts (yearbooks) that you can see they would honor her, and they would always talk about the sculptures and the paintings. She also liked to do plays and pageants — so she was quite into the arts,” said Feick.
In 1902, they wanted to have a company come in to set up different displays of statues, paintings, artwork, etc. and would then allow the public to come in and look at them.
“They might charge a little bit of an admission charge, and then they would use that money to start purchasing things. I think that’s originally how they maybe got started coming here in the first place,” said Feick.
Those artifacts remained in the school buildings until the 21st century when new school buildings were built and old ones demolished or sold.
According to retired staff member Don Moore, who spoke during the ceremony, it was suggested by an alumni of the 1957 class that the old Washington Middle School be refurbished into a senior housing facility. The school board at that time adopted the plan, and the building was sold for that purpose.
Moore explained a back-and-forth, complicated communication process with the new owners, school administrators, maintenance personnel, school board, etc. that occurred pertaining to what would happen to the many artifacts and statues the building contained. Some were stored in an empty, unused classroom in the old building, others were left in the empty old counselor’s office, while others were moved to the current central office.
In the end, Columbus Salvage ended up taking some items on consignment, according to Moore. Those items included the Elgins, which had hung in the old school library, as well as large statues.
Another statue, Winged Victory, was supposed to have been dismantled for safe storage, but had been given to a Columbus art dealer by the building’s new owner. The statue was finally able to be returned to the district and was locked away in the superintendent’s office. It had been suggested to place Winged Victory in the Temple Street auditorium lobby, but that location was deemed prohibited by the fire code.
Patton explained the current administration, school officials and majority of the school board (except for one member) are all different than when the old middle school was sold, and they wanted to help right the wrongs that were done.
They were able to determine Columbus Salvage still had two statues (Thalia and King Arthur) and 12 of the Elgins. The other statues had already been sold “to a good home,” according to Patton.
The statues were able to be reclaimed with the company only charging travel and storage fees rather than what they had the artifacts marked for sale as.
“Then we continued to raise money in order to be able to refurbish them,” said Patton.
David Terry Fine Art team from Columbus was the company that estimated the costs and refurbished all three statues that have since been placed into the Washington High and Middle School campus.
The team not only refurbished the statues but remade parts of the statues that had been missing for a long time — including King Arthur’s shield, sword and part of his arm, and Thalia’s arm and drumstick.
Winged Victory had a new box to be placed on which was built by current maintenance staff member Mike Skaggs.
At this time, both Thalia and King Arthur are located in Liberty Hall while Winged Victory stands tall in the rotunda of the WHS.
“We did a lot of great things because of you (who donated and started the initiative), but —like they’ve said— we have a long way to go,” said Patton.
Those who would like to donate to further historic preservation efforts can do so by donating to the HAP fund.
Donations can be made via www.wchcs.org/HistoricAssetPreservation.aspx or also by cash or check, written to Washington Court House City Schools, annotated “HAP Fund” with class year, if applicable, and delivered in person or mailed to 306 Highland Ave., Washington Court House, Ohio 43160.
The Class of 1964 has donated enough to choose the next statue to be refurbished.
For more information, please call 740-335-6620, extension 5027.
Reach journalist Jennifer Woods at 740-313-0355.